Slate, April 25, 2018: Redlining has taken a huge toll on property values. But not everywhere.
More than 80 years ago, the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation released its “Residential Security” maps, guides of American cities for lenders and brokers infamous for the color they used to condemn black neighborhoods to decades of disinvestment: red.
The 2016 Mapping Inequality project, produced by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab and a whole host of other researchers, knitted the HOLC maps together in a searchable digital interface. Zillow has used that project to show how the correlation between home values and redlining endures, 50 years after the 1968 Fair Housing Act outlawed the practice. Nationally, the median home value in redlined areas is $276,100, compared with $324,489 outside of them—a difference of nearly $50,000.
What’s most striking about the Zillow data is how much variation there is between cities. Researchers from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition had previously determined that redlined neighborhoods in Sun Belt cities were more likely to have remained segregated, despite evidence of the region’s general integration. They also found redlined neighborhoods in the South and West still had the highest degrees of economic inequality. In Tampa and Atlanta, Zillow found that homes redlined in the 1930s aren’t worth even half as much as neighboring properties. In Baltimore, Dallas, Miami, and Detroit, the value is only just higher than half. The largest dollar gap—more than $500,000—not surprisingly is in the super-expensive California market of Los Angeles, with San Francisco close behind. One thing several of those cities have in common: high postwar growth. What was redlined in the 1930s today marks a very small fraction of the city.